Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sparking One More Time


Looks like this is going to be a lot more fun than the 2008 short film Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Gokuu and his Friends Return!, which was basically the definition of fluffy, disposable nothing.

One can only assume that getting Toriyama himself involved in Dragon Ball for the first time in over 15 goddamn years couldn't have hurt. Call me a fool if you like, but I am one excited man-child!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dead A-License

Hey, she has the same expression I do!

Despite only having come out a little over a year ago, the sole High Definition home video release of Peter Jackson's watershed splat-stick opus, DEAD ALIVE (or "BRAINDEAD" to damn near every country that is not 'Merica), is already out of print. And yeah, it's "Out of Print" in the way where eBay and Amazon sellers have already raised the prices five times its list, of which they likely paid half of on release day. Gods, we live in strange times...

The consensus seems to be that Trimark Pictures' rights to the film - which, in turn, became Lionsgate's rights when they bought them out around 2000 - have finally expired. To put this into perspective, that's about 13 years after the initial Trimark/Lionsgate DVD was released in North America, so these guys had a pretty goddamn good run with it, financially speaking.

Keep in mind that while this is one of the single best things on the planet ever made... it's still cut by over 5 minutes. Supposedly this was the director's preferred cut, but I think we can all kindly shut the fuck up with that nonsense, unless someone can point me to a new interview where Jackson disowns the original Kiwi version and not give me the same second-hand quites IMDb has been milking for 15 years running. Seriously, the continuity on the US edit is all over the place, trimming some of my favorite jokes and leaving the fate of several of the film's most iconic spleen eaters unsettled! But I know, I know, anyone remotely familiar with this movie knows all of this, so discussing it beyond "Yes, it's still cut!" is about as productive as pissing upwind. So pardon me while I zip up.

As I said when the disc came out, it looks PRETTY DAMN GOOD, all things considered. Not perfect, largely because it's surely sourced from a 20 year 2nd Generation IN. Make no mistake though, it's substantially better than any SD release available - particularly when compared to the overflowing cornucopia of appallingly piss-poor (but uncut!) PAL versions floating around - and word is the insanely grainy look is similar enough to theatrical screenings that what you're seeing is just... y'know, Braindead, in all of its lo-fidelity, $3 million budgeted glory.

If you see this kicking around for the $20 MSRP, pick it up now, because this bad boy is already starting at over sixty bucks used. The fact that LG lost the home video rights means they've probably lost all broadcast and digital streaming rights, too, so unless New Line Cinema really wants to whore Jackson's early works to tie into The Hobbit Trilogy, this is as good as it's gonna get for a while.

I hate needing to say this, but I honestly wish Arrow Video would pick up the slack and do this title some uncut HD justice. Jackson's been threatening to restore all of his early films for nearly a decade now; if he does I'll gladly sell my damn plasma to upgrade if need be, but I'm getting old and impatient! I want Braindead, Uncut, and in HD... is that so difficult? Seriously, is it?

Oh well. Just a few more weeks until I can satisfy my love for practical bloodlust with Fede Alvarez' remake of The Evil Dead. I'm honestly super excited to see that... go figure.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Don't Choke On Those S'mores

Maetel is lost in thought over how retarded this all was.

Remember S'more Entertainment, the company that licensed both Toei's absurdist shounen action show Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo/ボボボーボ・ボーボボ and the classic Leiji Matsumoto coming of age adventure Galaxy Express 999/銀河鉄道999 TV shows? (Yeah, me neither.) The former got released as a Japanese/English audio release with no subtitles and spanned two $50 MSRP sets, while the latter was hard-subtitled using the same analog masters we've seen on digital streaming services, with only one of four projected releases having actually hit the market. I say "one of four", but... that's probably not the case any more.

Both releases crammed an unprecedented 9-10 episodes per dual-layered DVD, and while screenshots suggest that the results were less awful than I'd anticipated, it'd take a forgiving eye to call them "good". In effect, you're paying for the quality I'd expect from an eBay bootleg manufactured in Hong Kong, but without the added excitement of knowing your shitty One Piece gatefold's profits might be filtering back to the Triads to fund human trafficking.

Apparently, it turns out a $50 hard-subtitled release of a 40 year old TV show nobody in North America really gives a crap about wasn't a hot-ticket item... that's quite a shock and all,  but on the other hand it's really not surprising in the least. Regardless, here's the latest from S'More's Faceplace Board:

"We're just holding back on the release date for the time being, analyzing sales and if sales on part one justify release of the balance of the series. With the advent of digital streaming and downloads, it's often difficult to justify the costs involved in releasing 4 DVD box sets."

Considering S'more were the guys who said that having removable, player generated subtitles - you know, the kind of subtitles that are on literally every fucking DVD ever made anywhere - weren't "justified" based on the projected sales to begin with... yeah. Sorry to the, like, twenty guys who gave two shits about this release, but I'm pretty sure that's the end of it.

Far more depressing on reflection is that Discotek/Eastern Star, the guys who basically crafted a perfect release of the Galaxy Express feature films (and damn, do I love me some Adieu Galaxy Express 999!), said that they were interested in releasing GE999 TV... eventually. They defied the odds and released all 152 episodes Fist of the North Star TV, and also went back to the Lupin III Well they once famously turned their backs on to deliver the first ever English friendly release of the original-original TV series (ie: not the more popular one both Geneon and Streamline molested over the years), so I have little doubt that even if sales had been less than hotcakey, Discotek would have done the right thing and finished it off anyway.

Which reminds me, for anyone still jonesing for some vintage Matsumoto goodness, keep in mind that Discotek does have the DVD rights to the original Space Captain Harlock TV show - and at 42 episodes, it's sure to be a single release, too! It's almost been a year since the announcement, but considering they've been busy releasing a whole bunch of cool shit over the last 11 months, I'm happy to be patient.

I mean, Christ Riding a Piñata, we've either gotten or are right on the cusp of getting Shin Hurricaine Polymar, Mad Bull 34, Locke the Superman, Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo, Space Adventure Cobra and Golgo 13: The Professional (with UK and JP commentaries!) on R1 DVD. They've even released Little Nemo on Blu-ray, though you'd never know from the disturbing lack of reviews... Discotek might not be serving Harlock on a silver disc in the forseeable future, but there's PLENTY of great anime titles coming out of their pipeline to keep me busy.

Speaking of Space Captain Harlock, how neat is this?

Sorry, lost my train of thought. I dunno, do the sane thing and go watch Galaxy Express 999 TV on Crunchy Roll, like everyone who even remotely gave a shit about the show did back in 2009.

EDIT: Looks like I posted a draft by mistake. Fixed!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Protomen Strike Back

What's this, now... THE PROTOMEN, you say?

An operatic self-titled nerdcore album that paints the original Capcom MEGA-MAN game as a techno fueled epic tragedy, pitting brother against brother in a selfish dystopia that treasures martyrs over heroes, simultaneously worshiping and shamelessly perverting what could be the very avatar of my Nintendo-saturated youth? And they've already made A FULL BLOWN SEQUEL?!

...yes. This is exactly what I need in my life right now. I just had no idea until I knew it existed.

 It's exactly like This Guy, except with music.

And then they did a whole ALBUM OF QUEEN COVERS? That don't completely suck? Y'know what, you guys are all right by me.

If you agree and get sick of listening to music via streaming, you can always purchase CDs (and other crap, naturally) direct from the band, for a paltry $10 a piece. You can purchase MP3/FLAC downloads, too, but... why? Why do people buy download music when the CD is basically the same price? But whatever, my mission is to spread love, not judge.

Join me next time when I judge the hell out of something to make up for this uncharacteristically positive post.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Christine Returns... In The Most Ass Way Possible

"How do you want it signed, again? 'Fuck Your Mother'?"

The following dick-shrapnel was posted on Twilight Time's Facebook Wall yesterday, roughly 24 hours after the 3,000 pre-order limit had been reached:

Twilight Time DVD Label: There may still be a chance for some of those who want a copy of CHRISTINE--in the next few weeks a limited quantity of *signed* by Keith Gordon copies will be given away as part of a TT purchase promotion.

Okay, now for those of you who didn't plow head-first into this bullshit the first time, this will be the second signed 80s horror film they've offered to customers... if you purchase $100 worth of other Twilight Time titles. In the case of FRIGHT NIGHT it was signed by director Tom Holland, and the announcement wasn't made until all of the pre-orders  had already shipped, meaning that pretty much every asshole who wanted Fright Night had already thrown money their way.

For them to do it once was cheeky, but perhaps understandable. Maybe the opportunity didn't arise until the last minute, and they weren't sure if it would work. Turns out they did it again with JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, which is another one of the less than half-dozen Twilight Time titles to have actually sold out.

I was pissed not because I really needed a Tom Holland signature, but because I was one of those jackasses ordering the disc the day it went up; I was showing them that I was willing to pay $30 for a good 25 year old cult movie, and they repay me by telling me they have a super special version AFTER I get my copy. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt once, maybe even twice... but this is just bullcrap. They're holding spare copies hostage with the express permission to move other titles, and considering there's plenty of schlubby mother fuckers who never even had the chance to buy the $30 release in the first place, that's a low blow. Offering an exceptionally expensive promo copy to people willing to buy stuff they aren't interested in is NOT some sweepingly altruistic move on your part, Twilight Time. It's a dick move.

As I said, I've already got my order in. I'm not mad because I can't get Christine, waah waah, their business model should fail - I'm mad because it's a complete dick move from a company that started their latest "Top Tier" seller with a limit of 10 copies per customer. I don't particularly care if this becomes an eBay hit like every other collectible on the market (it's already selling for about $100 on average), I just wish they'd offer these promo copies for the people that actually wanted them - you know, the crazy mother fuckers willing to order it the day it goes up, a whole month before it ships -  were given a chance to get them without pre-ordering their copy first.

There's a unique symbiosis going on with Twilight Time that I don't think I've seen from any other retailer; they're basically using titles like Christine, The Mysterious Island, and Fright Night to make enough money to justify doing less popular titles like Bye Bye Birdie, Dimitrius and the Gladiators, Rapture and The Blue Lagoon, and even children's films like Enemy Mine. I've not given much thought as to why Horror and Science Fiction fans in particular are so keen on buying their favorites, whereas drama, musical and comedy features tend to cater to a less referent crowd, but it's become clear that this holds true for Twilight Time's releases if nothing else.

We, friends, are the support system for this label, and while I and everyone else with sane expectations have been perfectly happy with the product we got (minus NOTLD '90 and its ridiculous color timing bullshit), it pains me slightly to think that I'll be back next year without hesitation to buy THE BLOB '88, jumping through hoops to pre-order minutes after it goes up and then waiting a month to see if I got a lemon of a transfer. If their sole focus was on obscure classic films, this would make perfect sense... but with all due respect, I couldn't care less about Beloved Infidel or Bonjour Tristesse, just as I'm sure the fanbase of these two films gives a half a shit about the Tom Goddamn Savini remake of Night of the Fucking Living Dead. Though I wouldn't be surprised if the guys behind Twilight Time happen to be that rare breed of consumer who do like both - it happens. Hell, the customer base for Day of the Dead and Grave of the Fireflies aren't intrinsically linked, but here I am...

Could we change the course of this nonsense by ignoring the release and saving our money? Not really. I have little doubt that if every goddamn one of us turned our backs, semi-pro scalpers would still snap up every copy and do their best to spin BD25s into Solid Gold, and then we're in the same exact boat except without Christine, The Blob, and Mysterious Island on Blu-ray... and fuck that option, man.

I can only blame Twilight Time themselves so hard when the business model is taking popular films and offering a small window to make them available; Christine justifies Pony Soldier, and Twilight Time would rather sacrifice the good will of the former to make the latter happen in any way, shape or form. I get it. I just wish they were slightly less douchey about it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Twilight Burns Bright

This thing sold out in eight hours!
(And, no, they didn't have the stones to use this as the cover.)

I'd planned to post something when I got back, figuring it would take at least the weekend to see this thing disappear... but no, it's gone. 3,000 Blu-ray copies of John Carpenter's seminal 1983 adaptation of Stephen King's CHRISTINE, sold in a single day. Fucking hell, that's incredible.

Twilight Time felt their Scalper Senses Tingling and set a limit of 10 copies per customer until they were down to 500 copies, at which point you were limited to just 2 copies a piece. That means, minimum, 500 people bought this, though I'm sure the numbers are somewhere between two and three times that, even before you factor in poor schlubs who missed the window by an hour and then ordered the cheapest copy on eBay they could find. It's a tough world out there for fans of Sony Pictures' "deep catalog" titles, and with it having been over a year and FRIGHT NIGHT is still conspicuously absent on the international Blu-ray market, it's hard not to get nervous that this might be the only 1080p video release for quite some time!

Honestly, I hope at least one or two motherfuckers who planned to score 50 copies and have already pre-sold them on eBay are going to have to eat crow on this whole thing. I'm all for capitalism of the sleaziest order, and with Screen Archives themselves (the sole distributor for Twilight Time's catalog) having limited it to 10 copies per buyer for the first 2,500 copies, it's pretty obvious they give absolutely zero fucks how much anyone is profiteering off of their handful of 'mainstream' horror releases (of which this is the third). Buying one to keep and one to sell seems perfectly reasonable to an opportunistic snake-oil salesman like yours truly, but if you bit off more than you can chew and put up 25 copies of a "Limited Edition" product you might or might not even have access to, sometimes you deserve to have it blow up in your damn face.

Either way, Twilight Time have done right by fans for including all of the previous DVD extras, and if you didn't pre-order it within, oh, two hours of Twilight Time sending out their "NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER" eMail flyer... well, sucks to be you, I guess. Sorry, guy, better luck next time I guess.

Meanwhile, Brian DePalma's apparently far less scalpable 1978 feature THE FURY is in fairly strong supply, with slightly over 2,000 copies still available. Make of that what you will.

I feel like I should probably grab this - and maybe make good on my threat to scoop up a copy of ENEMY MINE, while I'm at it - but both are a harder sell than Carpenter from his Golden Period. Granted, I bought NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD '90, and boy oh boy, didn't that turn out to be worth the effort...

UPDATE: There's been several people claiming that the 2 copies limit was started with 1,000 copies remaining. Every previous Twilight Time release did that with 500 remaining, and with no official announcement of this limit from Screen Archives themselves, I'm not sure if this is accurate or not. It'd be an interesting shift if so.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Kentai's Rage Redux

So, to recap:

* Shin Hokuto Musou/Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 is a Download Only game on the PS3 (and Wii U) in North America. Xbox 360 users will still have the option to get it on disc.

* The game is a fairly daunting 9.3 Gigs (PS3), and still costs a full MSRP of $59.99.

* The only incentive you get for paying full price despite not having a disc copy is costume DLC, an offer which is good until March 5th and only includes a total of 8 "Classic" manga costumes (the same costumes available from the first game) and a bonus "Land of Asura" costume. In other words, they're buttering us up with STALLONE COSPLAY.

* Jim Sterling, one of the few vocal defenders of the first Ken's Rage in North America, THOUGHT THE SEQUEL WAS TOTAL SHIT.

* ...sigh. I still want the fucking thing, though. Devil Rebirth and Hyou battles? 'Nuff said.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Demonic Phenomena

Like the lot of you, I recently* heard that Synapse Films had walked away with the rights to Lamberto Bava's DEMONS and DEMONS 2, and Dario Argento's TENEBRAE (or is it "Tenebre"? Tenebres? Unsane? Shadow? Whatever...) and PHENOMENA. True, all of these have been given an uncut release in the United Kingdom by Arrow Video, but I've had my fair share of honest, at times scathing criticism towards the lot of 'em. Doubtless the label will continue to have its defenders, even for this quartet of deeply flawed released, but I'm nothing if not honest when I talk about this stuff: When a disc looks or sounds like crap, I notice, and then I tend to show up here long enough to vomit out my feelings about it.

It all usually leads to anonymous forum users calling me an assclown fuckfart who doesn't know a film reel from a banjo shoved up a donkey's ass, but whatever. I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

Curious, I contacted Don May Jr. and ask him for any details he could share with me about the materials he expected to receive. There's a lot of good news to be had, and one point that I'm deeply frustrated by, but this is what I know...

DEMONS will, as I had suspected, be based on the 2K master Arrow Video created with Ciniteca di Bologna using the original negative, but they're going back to the initial, "raw" scan to create an entirely new master with proper color grading. Not only will we no longer have to deal with elevated black levels, but the day-for-night shots in the beginning of the film will be dealt with properly, which was something so far down on the list of big problems I had with Arrow's BD that it wasn't even in the Top Five. Still, awesome that Don May and company are being pro-active and fixing everything instead of just the stuff that made me blow a personal gasket.

Synapse is also tracking down the best materials they can for the "USA" Mono dub as featured on the various New World Pictures VHS and the Arrow Blu-ray, the "UK" Stereo dub as has always been included on pretty much every other DVD release ever, and the original Italian mix. In short, we're looking at the definitive DEMONS, and as much as the thought of double dipping on a Lamberto Bava Blu-ray makes me wince, it'll still be nice to see how thoroughly Synapse mops the floor with Arrow's sloppy attempt.

DEMONS 2 will, again, be based on the Arrow Video/Ciniteca di Bologna 2K master, but they're going to see what can be done to improve it. One needs only compare it to the Anchor Bay DVD to see that something went awry here.

The materials for the cheaper, crumbier sequel have never been all that good to start with, so honestly, if we can walk away with a new encode that's got the proper day-for-night timing and doesn't suck low bitrate balls, I'll be happy enough. The only downside here is the thought of actually watching Demons 2 again...

TENEBRAE will, indeed, be based on the same master as Wild Side's French release. The French disc is mostly gorgeous (a handful of scratch repair artifacts aside) and sounds fine, so there's nothing more to say; it'll be great barring some bizarre authoring glitch of Titanic proportions, and if you want a copy of this excellent transfer without forced subtitles, sell the Wild Side disc now and get this once it comes out. Done deal.

PHENOMENA is going to be based on a new scan created by Wild Side as well, and with Tenebre above being any measure, I'm sure it'll look and sound... well, phenomenal. Supposedly Dario Argento and Romano Albani participated in the creation of this new master, which is interesting, if nothing else. The bad news is that Wild Side made a new HD master of the 110 minute "International" version, not the 116 minute "Integral" version that appears on the Arrow Video Blu-ray and pretty much all German and Japanese prints. The reason behind this is, interestingly enough, because Dario Argento says the 110 minute version is his preferred cut of the film.

Synapse is getting access to both Wild Side and Arrow Video's materials, but point out that the audio issues involved in re-creating the 'Integral' version have left so many audio issues that they aren't sure how to proceed yet. Having spoken to a friend who tried to re-create a "Perfect" version of Phenomena on DVD, I can confirm that short of creating a brand new mix with archival three-track elements, there's never going to be a "seamless" Integral version in any language but Italian.

What this means for the Synapse Blu-ray of Phenomena, I don't know, but I'm expecting us to get the 110 minute version in higher quality than ever before, with a number of deleted scenes in Italian. Maybe if we're lucky we'll get the 116 minute version as a bonus feature? Who knows. These releases are very high up on my radar, though, so if I get any more info before they're actually out "in the wild", I'll let you know, friends.

UPDATE: The missing Day-For-Night shot occurs at 09:38 on the Arrow BD, which cuts from the low shot of the girls looking up at the theater to a close-up of the neon sign and then slowly pans down to people walking in the main doors. I've included a pair of caps showing the Arrow BD (top) and the Remastered Austrian DVD (bottom).

*Yeah, that was like... a week ago? Whatever, I have the flu. Bite my infectious, zombified ass.

Great Stone Wolf

Thai posters are friggin' sweet. That is all.

For $16.99, I found myself unable to stop myself from purchasing AnimEigo's LONE WOLF AND CUB/子連れ狼 Blu-ray set, which retails for $60 but can usually be had for about $45. As I've covered in the past, the set has a pretty severe DVNR problem, particularly when put side-by-side with its substantially less filtered English dubbed equivalent, SHOGUN ASSASSINS. I'll not belabor the point any more than I need to, what with Ian Jane having done a fine job of showcasing how drastically different the two look, so I'll just talk about the subtitled release now that I've actually had a chance to start watching it. This discussion is for the first film on the set, though having taken a brief look at the later films I think it's safe to say that they're all roughly on the same level of quality.

I'll give AnimEigo whatever credit they're due; despite my dull, unsurprised disappointment with the overall image quality, things could have gone worse. Tight close-ups show a decent level of detail, and the intricate patterns on clothing tend to be surprisingly sharp, even on medium shots. A lot of the "softness" on display has more to do with the original focus than anything else, with Tohoscope being a legitimate 4-perf 35mm format that lends itself to a fairly shallow depth of field. Flesh tones look natural, and while I get the distinct impression that the contrast has been somewhat exaggerated, both the crisp whites and deep blacks are as solid as anyone could ever ask for. I don't totally agree with them, but at least now I "get" why so many disc critics have been impressed, particularly with the washed out, hazy nature of so many Japanese HD transfers kicking around: When compared to, say, Toei/Arrow Video's Lady Snowblood, or Toho/Media Blasters's Destroy All Monsters BD (assuming you can ever get your hands on it), there are some really positive qualities to be found here.

Unfortunately, DVNR has left the entire collection looking... off. I'll give credit where it's due, they've used a quality algorithm that's not left any obvious temporal smearing, but the total lack of anything resembling organic dithering or celluloid motion on the film's long, still shots baiting the audience with the promise of bloodshed is disconcerting, at best. On fast motion you can occasionally see grain sticking to the edges of moving objects, which becomes particularly obnoxious during the frantically shot battle sequences in which the flailing villains will suddenly be doused in an aura of grittiness against a smooth, serene background. Robert Woodhead, CEO and one of the founding members of AnimEigo, argues that the scanning process they used meant that there's no real "grain" on their HD masters, only video noise; while I can, on a purely technical level, see some validity to this argument, I respectfully, and whole heartedly disagree that smoothing the coarse, noisy "stuff" - whatever it might technically be - has resulted in an improved experience.

The 35mm elements AnimEigo used are, at times, littered with minor specs and scratches. Normally I'd not begrudge 35mm film for actually looking like film, but when I see "sparkle" and no grain, my brain has a minor short and makes my heart skip a beat. Another oddity is a strange pulse pattern overlaid on darker colors, and what appears to be chroma that doesn't quite "match up" to the Luma beneath it. It's reminiscent of those ugly, aliased reds you see on DV material, I guess, and I have little doubt this error was on the masters to start with - HDCAM has colorspace issues, but that alone wouldn't explain what on earth we're seeing. They did something to these masters at the hardware level, and the results are... mediocre, at best.

High end audio hiss has been filtered pretty heavily, to the point where shouts of vengeance and clashing swords have a slightly distorted, mechanical sound I can't imagine was ever a part of the original mix. Long stretches of silence really are dead silent, to the point where I had wondered if I had somehow accidentally hit the mute button. I never expect much from vintage mono audio materials, particularly not from countries like Japan and Italy which freely mixed on-set audio and obvious ADR loops, but much like the video I can't help but feel that AnimEigo's well meaning digital wizardry has only made less than ideal materials worse, instead of better. The only thing I CAN'T complain about are the subtitles, which include relevant translation notes and change color for two different characters speaking at the same time. Honestly, if there's one thing AnimEigo always rocked out, it was their subtitles, and despite these being a re-purposed version of their 2004 DVD set translation that hasn't changed one bit.

Honestly, anyone watching Kozure Okami in HD is probably expecting them to look and sound like a set of 40 year old grindhouse films, so why they went out of their way to futz up what was (admittedly) an already middling set of HD masters, I'll never know. I'm sure a fresh scan of the negatives could yield dramatically improved results, but if you love these movies and English is the only Anglo-themed language you speak, this might be the only game in town for the next several years.

On the other end of the Japanese Vintage Genre Blu-ray spectrum, I also watched the first DAIMAJIN/大魔神 film courtesy of Mill Creek. It's a two-disc set for a slim 240 minutes of content, with a BD-50 containing two films and a BD-25 with one, roughly 90 minutes of behind-the-scenes content, and original trailers. It also retails for a meager $25, but can be had for about $11 on a pretty regular basis. It's also worth noting that not only did they include the vintage AIP dubs for the first two films, but they actually created a dub for the third... not sure who'd actually, like, want a new dub for a 60s Kaijuu movie, but the fact that they'd spend the money and go all out on a release they're only going to sell for $5-7 wholesale is the sort of insane, borderline financial suicide you just don't see much of these days.

As for the transfer, it looks... fine, really, if not perfect. This is essentially a port of the Japanese Blu-ray Trilogy which clocks in at a hefty $130 MSRP, limited edition or no. As is typical of vintage Japanese features the black levels are somewhat elevated, though it's nowhere near as obvious as, say, the previously mentioned Destroy all Monsters and Lady Snowblood. I don't have a clue if these were pulled from the negatives or a similarly high quality 35mm source, but having been shot on an 8-perf 35mm format, the film looks crisper than the typical giant monster movie from nearly 50 years ago... not jarringly so, sadly, but better by enough that I'm regularly surprised at how much close-up detail there is on what looks like s a relatively low-budget fantasy film. I am disappointed to say that it's clearly another CRT sourced scan, likely from Tokyo Film Lab, but the fuzzy, mechanical looking noise (particularly on darker scenes) is less prevalent than it has been on plenty of other TFL transfers, and honestly, I'd rather have the CRT scan noise on Daimajin than the baby soft waxiness of Lone Wolf and Cub. Turning the contrast up and black levels down on your display would "fix" most of what's wrong with this transfer, though of course consumers should never have to do that of their own accord.

Audio on the Japanese track has an obvious, audible hiss from start to finish, but again, it's a monster movie from 1966. Comes with the territory. The AIP English dub sounds much less harsh by comparison, but never having seen Daimajin on dubbed TV as a kid, I felt no strong desire for that to be the way to watch it on BD. Subtitles are generally adequate, probably a 1:1 copy of ADV's DVD track from a decade ago, though some of the fast-talking bits are oversimplified, and the way they handle "Kami-sama" always feels a little... weird. (A common complaint I have with Japanese entertainment in general, but alas, a discussion for another day.) They're good enough, just not nearly as nice as AnimEigo's efforts.

So, there we have it. One digitally manipulated standard release, one largely unmolested budget release. Both of these franchises are great in their own disparate ways; Lone Wolf and Cub is an exciting, pulp riddled action extravaganza that starts on a positive note and just goes crazy from there, and Daimajin is a respectable samurai drama with a huge, supernatural twist that's more than worth the wait. If I had to recommend one, I'd say that Mill Creek's Daimajin Trilogy is just too damn good a bargain NOT to own, but a big part of me thinks that if you're the kind of person who needs Lone Wolf and Cub series in HD, you probably need the AnimEigo set, warts and all. Alternately, I suppose you can just buy the stand alone Shogun Assassins disc - the re-edited English dubbed "remix" of the first two Lone Wolf tales, complete with interviews with Samuel L. Jackson for no sane reason I can think of - which has largely been left unmolested by digital shenanigans. Were I more insane I'd probably sync the Japanese audio and English subtitles to the Shogun Assassins "Sequel" disc and create my own better-but-not-perfect release of the four latter films... but goddamn it, I'm tired of buying multiple copies of the same movie just so I can fix them. If anything, I'd rather wait for France or Japan to create their own superior HD masters and then just subtitle those, instead.

Also, seriously guys, check this crap out. It came out in 2010, completely flew under my "WTF Japan?!" radar, and I honestly can't tell if it's a good thing or not. Yes, that's a Daimajin puppet introducing the 26 episode TV series Daimajin Kanon, which is actually a thing, no joke.

In short, Japan made a totally unironic Moe Daimajin Puppet Show. Yeah, that's only part of it, but with how dark and bleak the 60s films were, that's just... weird. I wonder how long it'll be before we get an officially sanctioned Grave of the Fireflies 4-panel gag manga?